Tenants pet died should I end pet fee?

44 Replies

Tenants have been in my rental since February with their dog and they pay $50 month extra as a pet fee. In NJ I cannot accept a pet deposit and security deposit so I decided to add the monthly pet fee.  

  The dog died a couple weeks ago and I wasn't sure if I should continue with collecting the $50 until the lease is up because I'm not sure if any damage from the pet these last few months occurred. I didn't specify in the lease about "in case of pets death" and they didn't mention to me about going out to find another pet immediately either. I wasn't sure if I should just stop the pet fee or ask to do an inspection to make sure the pet didn't damage anything. 

  They have been great tenants as far as timely payments and will notified me if there was an issues in or around the home since they've been there. I also pick up the rent in person every month so I don't think hiding a dog would be very easy for them if they do decide to not tell me

Updated 28 days ago

update ^

Updated 28 days ago

Thank you all for the advice. I overlooked the pet fee being added simply to let the animal stay in the home. I forgot the security deposit should be what covers damages from the animal.

Inspect the flooring, doors, sliders, back yard and if all clear delete the $50 for next month. I would leave the agreement in place as is likely they get a new pet.

@Joe Capobianco   the regular security deposit should be used to cover any pet damage. I would lose the pet fee since they no longer have a pet.  I  would let them know that if they get another pet the fee would be included again.   Pet fees are more about  paying for the privilege of having the pet.   Any damage will come out of the security deposit because who is to say what its from.  Are you not going to charge them for a ruined floor because they paid a pet fee, of course not.  

IMO - 1. Send condolences 
2. Security deposit collected should remain in place until they move out

3. Ask what their plans are regarding a new pet. 

4. If they say they don't plan on getting another animal, amend the contract and remove the $50/mo. Or if they do plan on getting another dog then pause payments for them until they do. 

At the end of the day, the security deposit has been collected to cover any damages at the end of their lease (outside of normal wear & tear) & they shouldn't be forced to pay a pet fee is there is no pet. 

If you're concerned about them lying to you about another potential pet, just remember that you have their security deposit to lean on as well. 

Let me know if you have any questions.

Originally posted by @Ryder Cotton :

IMO - 1. Send condolences 
2. Security deposit collected should remain in place until they move out

3. Ask what their plans are regarding a new pet. 

4. If they say they don't plan on getting another animal, amend the contract and remove the $50/mo. Or if they do plan on getting another dog then pause payments for them until they do. 

At the end of the day, the security deposit has been collected to cover any damages at the end of their lease (outside of normal wear & tear) & they shouldn't be forced to pay a pet fee is there is no pet. 

If you're concerned about them lying to you about another potential pet, just remember that you have their security deposit to lean on as well. 

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you very much for the help 

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :

@Joe Capobianco  the regular security deposit should be used to cover any pet damage. I would lose the pet fee since they no longer have a pet.  I  would let them know that if they get another pet the fee would be included again.   Pet fees are more about  paying for the privilege of having the pet.   Any damage will come out of the security deposit because who is to say what its from.  Are you not going to charge them for a ruined floor because they paid a pet fee, of course not.  

Thank you for the help 

Originally posted by @Caroline Gerardo :

Inspect the flooring, doors, sliders, back yard and if all clear delete the $50 for next month. I would leave the agreement in place as is likely they get a new pet.

 Thank you for the help

Silly question... are they asking you end the pet fee? If not, perhaps give then time to sort this out themselves. Perhaps they will want to fill their home with a new pet or they may be undecided.

I wouldn't just end the pet fee right away. I would continuing accepting the $50/month and put it in an escrow account and hold it until there lease is up. If they decide to get a new pet then no harm no issues. If not then they have a credit towards there next year renew or an extra payment upon receiving their security deposit. 

Originally posted by @Justin Sullivan :

I wouldn't just end the pet fee right away. I would continuing accepting the $50/month and put it in an escrow account and hold it until there lease is up. If they decide to get a new pet then no harm no issues. If not then they have a credit towards there next year renew or an extra payment upon receiving their security deposit. 

 How would this even be legal???

i am fairly certain that if you call out a fee as "pet rent" then if the tenant does not have the pet you can not charge it 


now like most things if the tenant does not complain then no worry - but if a tenant did decide to go to a local tenants union because you charged them for a pet they dis not have I can see this being a legal issue. 

@Joe Capobianco

I would require a letter from the tenant that days no pets will be at the property from this point on perhaps.

What was your intent with the pet fee?

If it was just more income, that's not bad, but if it was for special cleaning and maintenance because of the pet, perhaps with no further pets living there, you could inspect for and mitigate any potential pet concerns.

Thinking about carpet and paint repairs in some areas and such.

After my last dog died, it took a while before I saw where he rubbed up on certain walls and doors.

Anyway, if no more pets are coming, the least I would do, would be to remove the pet fee.

Just the title of this thread is going to have the Vice reporters on us again: "Inside the Wildly-Popular Forum Where Landlords Plot to Screw You Over: Part II -- Dead Reckoning"

Odds are good they will want another dog (even though they may say no now) and puppies are much more likely to do damage. If you keep charging the pet fee, they will feel within their rights to have a pet (understandably). Even if your lease is worded such that you could legally keep charging them the $50, it will probably create friction with the tenant. Just because you can legally do something, doesn't make it the best business decision.

I would inspect the property and if there is no damage, I would offer to create a lease-change document that removes the fee and removes the right to have an animal. The agreement should also say something like "I agree to not bring another animal into the home. Penalty for doing so without authorization is $150 per month through the entire term of occupancy." 

Matters like this require common sense to work through. If they have no pet and there is no damage, common sense says that removing the fee is fair.

@Mary M.

Do you know what an escrow account is Mary? There is nothing wrong with continuing the collect the fee and holding it in a separate account while the tenants decides what they want to do. If they reach out snd say they aren’t getting another pet then they get reimbursed. If they get another pet then he has his money. By removing the fee it’ll make it that much harder to put it back on and the smartest thing to do is have an escrow account so money is there dor either party that needs it. They might be devestated from the loss of their pet snd not sure if they want a new pet or not. I did not look up the laws nor am I an attorney. If he wanted legal advice he should have called an attorney. But he didn’t he went to BiggerPockets forum to have a conversation about it.

@Justin Sullivan Lets flip this - how would you feel if your utility company kept charging you $50 for a service you no longer receive?  Would you rather they stop charging you or would you rather they "hold on to" your money until some unknown future date? 

 

@Mary M.

So I actually had this exact problem happen to me recently. I purchased AT&T phones and intended on switching from T mobile only to find out I would have to pay off all my brand new phones at T mobile and take a few hundred dollar loss along with putting out almost $3,000. So we returned the phone and thought we were done only to find a charge from Allstate hitting my business account for $32. and some change. I saw it once and just chalked it up as a insurance payment for one of my properties. But then I saw it again and dug in and found out I was charged 10 times totaling over $300 for something I never even needed. So I called the company and fought for my money back only to hear One month refund then two then three then the absolute max is no more not changing. But then I decided to split the difference I was at 10 months they were at 6 so I said lets refund 8 and you guys keep two. They quickly agreed and I got $255 refund and they got to keep around $60 for my mistake of not noticing this payment coming out of my checking account. Companies do this **** all the time. They keep deposits take extra money. If the tenants don't want another pet and don't want to pay the extra fee then they can speak up to their landlord and say we aren't getting another pet so we want to have the pet charge removed. Until then I say put it in escrow and let them mourn their pet. Some pets are family I know I would be devastated if my dog died even If it was expected, and I wouldn't want to hear about money while mourning my pet. I am not saying for him to pocket the money but to keep the charge on and set that money aside so it can be given back at a later date or just reinstated once they get a new pet. 

Honestly none of us know anything and really should be asking an atttorney what to do to prevent any legal troubles. I just know that if you keep the money set aside in its own account you can't get in any trouble for taking it if you aren't suppose to which I don't even know. For all we know the pet fee could be for the entire lease due to extra wear and tear from the pet and him not be able to take it off even if the pet dies. We don't know until we look up the laws or speak with an attorney who did. But I do like hearing your point of view on the situation!

P.S. Comcast cable charges everyone a sports fee so they don't have to charge extra for the sports package and I hate football, baseball, basketball and don't ever watch them. Played them as a kid but don't like them now but I still pay it and have no choice!!!

@Justin Sullivan

Yeah, but Justin...you're not Comcast. The CEO of Coca-Cola, the CEO of Red Bull, and the kid down the street with a lemonade stand are all in the business of selling flavored water, but you can't seriously expect them all to have the same business model because they're "running a business."

Some really impressive bad advice in these replies. 

Cancel the pet fee. Let them know that if they want to get a pet again that you’ll reinstate the fee. 
you should inspect the property just as you normally do

@Jim K.

I am not saying that the kid selling lemonade needs to hold quarterly return meetings with his family but I am saying that why rush to change it so fast? That's my only thing. I don't see the need in rushing to remove the pet fee right now. Give them some time bring it up to them but set that money aside to give it back if they decided not to move forward with another pet and if their is no damages from the pet. $50/month is not a lot of money especially is the pet chews up a rug and scratches a couple doors. You might still be out of your pocket paying for repairs.

As for same business model, why not emulate the big dogs in the world. They obviously have done something correct in order to be a publicly traded company worth billions of dollars. So if you can pull a few pointers from them then go for it. This is a business transaction its not charity or subsidized housing. The landlord offers the tenant something and tenant in return pays for that. He has to think about himself and not worry about the $50/month that the tenant already agreed to. Honestly if there lease says $50/month for 12 months then he can't remove it without breaking the lease. IF they didn't put a clause in there of pet dies then he'll be breaking the lease by removing the fee. 

I know someone who lost their business because a home owner refused to pay them the final payment of $250,000 due to a illegal contract. If he breaks the lease by removing the pet fee then all bets are off and these tenants could do whatever they wanted. He really should speak with an attorney about this I just like to see the different view points from everyone. But first and foremost is for him to protect himself and my opinion is for him to keep collecting the payment and put it in an escrow account to determine at a later date.

Originally posted by @Justin Sullivan :

@Jim K.

I am not saying that the kid selling lemonade needs to hold quarterly return meetings with his family but I am saying that why rush to change it so fast? That's my only thing. I don't see the need in rushing to remove the pet fee right now. Give them some time bring it up to them but set that money aside to give it back if they decided not to move forward with another pet and if their is no damages from the pet. $50/month is not a lot of money especially is the pet chews up a rug and scratches a couple doors. You might still be out of your pocket paying for repairs.

As for same business model, why not emulate the big dogs in the world. They obviously have done something correct in order to be a publicly traded company worth billions of dollars. So if you can pull a few pointers from them then go for it. This is a business transaction its not charity or subsidized housing. The landlord offers the tenant something and tenant in return pays for that. He has to think about himself and not worry about the $50/month that the tenant already agreed to. Honestly if there lease says $50/month for 12 months then he can't remove it without breaking the lease. IF they didn't put a clause in there of pet dies then he'll be breaking the lease by removing the fee. 

I know someone who lost their business because a home owner refused to pay them the final payment of $250,000 due to a illegal contract. If he breaks the lease by removing the pet fee then all bets are off and these tenants could do whatever they wanted. He really should speak with an attorney about this I just like to see the different view points from everyone. But first and foremost is for him to protect himself and my opinion is for him to keep collecting the payment and put it in an escrow account to determine at a later date.

As Machiavelli put it, "But above all he [a prince] must refrain from seizing the property of others, because a man is quicker to forget the death of his father than the loss of his patrimony.”

But for me, it would be simpler: I can't imagine explaining this whole escrow-account-and-don't-mention-it business i to one of our local magistrates here. You avoid getting hauled in to explain something like this to the same person who handles your evictions.